The 11th annual Taiwan Bonsai Creator Association Exhibition was held July 5th through the 7th. Min Hsuan Lo’s blog has a lot of great photos of the 103 bonsai on display.
As a beginner, I am not yet confident enough to make an entry into a bonsai contest yet. Achieving the balance, symmetry, and proportion that a trained judge’s eye is going to look for is not something that can be learned overnight. I do enjoy following the contests though, because they can be a good learning experience. Right now, there is a couple of forums running contests that would be easy (and free) to enter or just to watch and learn from.
The Knowledge of Bonsai Progressive Styling Contest
The contest objective is to obtain stock and style it into a presentable bonsai within the time frame allotted by the rules below. In order to include all levels of enthusiasts and all levels of stock, we have created a professional and a non-professional category and sub-divided these into different stock categories. There is no price limit on stock.
Before photographs of the stock must be received no later than midnight (CST or GMT -5) July 31, 2008 in order to enter the contest.
BonsaiSite.com “Create a tree that mimics nature” contest
You must have a photo of a tree in nature you wish to mimic, then search for nursery stock from a non-bonsai nursery to use to mimic your photograph of nature. You may also use seedlings you grew yourself, rescued garden plants, and collected materials so long as no work has been done to them with the exception of a repotting. Do not collect the tree you are intending on mimicing!
Deadline for Initial picture submission of the tree you wish to mimic: December 31st, 2008
Deadline for submission of initial tree material you are using: May 31st, 2009
I have a couple of ficus microcarpa trees that were a part of the first pre-bonsai trees that I bought. This one in particular is my favorite. Ficus trees are really easy to take care of, grow profusely, and can survive many beginner mistakes. They are tropical, so you have to keep them indoors in the winter. Under a good florescent light, they will continue to grow nicely. Here’s a progression of one tree over the past few months.
The above picture is right after it was freshly repotted in late February. I potted it in orchid mix, which at the time was the best soil I could find that would be fast draining and help the roots to flourish.
After a lot of growth, I started having problems with fungus gnats in the soil. So, I repotted in a mixture of 50/50 turface and pine bark mulch. I also did an extensive branch prune due to many branches coming out of the same spot on the trunk, causing bulbous pertrusions.
Unfortunately, between nature and I, this tree has seen a break. Birds snapped some of the branches, then proceeded to defoliate the rest of the tree. It has really proven to be a good thing in this specific case. The branches that are sprouting are in much better places and will provide better balance for the informal upright style that I was shooting for. I continue to hope this will be one the best bonsai trees in my collection one day. It’s one of the first trees that people notice when looking at the different varieties on my deck.
A bonsai master by many accounts, Walter Pall has one of the best (if not the best) bonsai galleries on the internet. He works mainly with bigger trees, but he is a true artist with a uncanny vision for what the future should be. I’ve seen progression shots where I think to myself “Wow, he really screwed that up”, only to see it leaf out a year later and look great. Here’s a link to the gallery.
Make no mistake, I am no expert. I started bonsai in February of this year and so far I really love the art. It’s a rewarding experience that can take as much or as little time as you want to put into it. So, what prompted starting a bonsai blog? I had a couple of reasons. I love reading blogs and am subscribed to over a hundred different feeds. I had real problems finding good bonsai blogs though. That’s not to say they aren’t out there. I have several linked in my blogroll. I’m just saying that there’s not a lot of variety out there, and this is one of the few areas where I think one more blog couldn’t hurt.
This blog will detail my experiences dealing with growing bonsai in the relentless heat and humidity of the South. While we have many varieties to choose from, many of the most popular bonsai picks will either not grow or have a very tough time in this environment. So, I’m experimenting with many different types to try to come up with the toughest trees available in local nurseries. I’ve read several books and intend to talk aobut some of them in the coming weeks. Anyway, bookmark this page or grab my RSS feed and put it in your reader. If nothing else, you can tell me what I’m doing wrong.